By Monika Terfloth – Part 8 of 10 of the Mother in-law in Nepal and India series.
Seriously, I don’t know where to begin. So much of what I have seen defies description! We landed in New Delhi a day later than expected, so we will have a brief stay in Delhi before we return to Kathmandu. We were met at the airport by our driver Savran (from Savion Travel), a tall, very thin, middle-aged man. A man so very quiet and of few words, but so very capable. We quickly came to trust him implicitly! He chauffeured us through the Delhi rush-hour in the late afternoon traffic, thick with vehicles of every description… small three-wheeled tuk-tuks in bright yellow and green all packed with people, busses jammed with extra people hanging off the side and loaded on top, motor scooters with entire families aboard (six is the record so far), and into the mix add cows, donkeys, camels, ambulances, bicycles, pushcarts, and any other thing you can think of and that is still not enough…all this packed together on the roadway. Those of you who have been here will truly know how it is. Motor cycle helmets seem to be optional for passengers, though most drivers do wear them. Not an unusual sight at 90km/hr to see a gorgeous young woman wearing a pink sari, perched side-saddle on the back of a motorcycle, legs crossed, wearing heels while relaxing, laughing and chatting in the driver’s ear.
“Drivers talk with their horns” Savron says. Yes indeed they do, in fact the trucks have painted notices on the rear ‘Blow Horn’, ‘Horn Please’. A special kind of honk to pass, another to say ‘move along’, another to say thank you, get out of the way, you’re going too fast/slow, I need to turn, where is your mother, follow me I am going right by there…. The racket is incredible! We drove through the evening and until after dark to reach the city of Agra, a drive which took about 6 hours. Not a break in the action while all the while alongside the roadway people still cooked, sold their wares, took baths, nursed children, slept, herded their animals etc. etc. Positively dizzying.
The city of Agra is the site of the Taj Mahal. A love-story is behind it’s construction and it is a truly beautiful monument to a woman much-loved. I will spare you the details as the description would be endless. I didn’t think it mattered whether I saw the Taj or not, but now that I have, it has become a very special memory. Our guide for the day, Islam, has a great sense of humor and is a very kind man. After I diagnosed his plantar fasciitis (sp) he also became my loyal friend and has decided to buy himself some decent shoes. One of my fondest memories of the day is when he stopped at a vegetable vendor’s wagon to buy fresh water chestnuts for us. After also purchasing a bottle of water, he carefully rinsed them to be sure that they would be tolerated by our ‘sensitive stomachs’. Bright green and heart shaped, the outer casing is cracked open to reveal a creamy, white, crunchy heart in the centre. They were delicious and thirst quenching. It was 40 degrees, everyone dripping with sweat and no one bothers about it. Mop your brow, air your armpits, lay down against a wall, whatever it takes.
We drove through the side streets of Agra and again each moment filled the senses. Stunning images of poverty, contentment, ritual, history and startling contrasts at every turn… but more on that later.